If you see someone with a pet monkey, it's easy to think how cute they are and that maybe you'd like one as a pet. But the reality of having a primate as an exotic pet may not be so beguiling. Keeping one can be quite challenging, and it can require decades of constant care, from making special foods to changing diapers.
Monkeys That Are Kept as Pets
- Capuchin: This little primate is often seen in movies and television and is famous for its small size and mischevious nature. They are highly intelligent, territorial, and will live up to years in captivity. That's 40 years of diapers, in case you didn't realize they don't learn to use the toilet.
- Chimpanzees: This is the largest kind of primate typically found as a pet and isn't actually a monkey (they are apes). Chimps are also often seen in movies and on television. Many reports of chimps attacking their owners and other people, even killing them, have continued over the years. Chimpanzees are large and strong, and males especially are very aggressive. They can live 60 years and more. These are not household pets.
- Macaques: These smaller primates can live up to 30 years, needing diaper changes all that time. They need large, secure cages so they don't get lost in your house or run outside and climb up electric poles, which is often the outcome. Even though these are smaller primates, they still require extremely large enclosures, at least 30 feet square. Even some zoos don't provide primates with the appropriate amount of space.
- Tamarins: These are tiny primates that weigh less than a pound but will live about 15 years in captivity. They can still deliver a nasty bite despite their small mouths and need very secure cages with tiny bar spacing; if not, they will escape or get stuck in the bars.
- Squirrels: These are very acrobatic monkeys. They live up to 25 years, use their tail to hang on branches, and need a lot of space (as does any primate). They will also wear diapers their entire life and eat a variety of foods.
- Marmosets: Similar to the Tamarins in size and housing requirements, Marmosets are teeny-tiny primates. They are quick and not suited to handling since they don't sit still in your lap.
- Guenons: These are little primates weigh in at about 10 pounds and live about 25 years in captivity. Guenons, like all primates, are very high maintenance. There are almost two dozen species of Guenons, with the Green monkey, Vervet, and Grivet being possibly the most popular in captivity. They thrive in large groups, therefore one by itself is not suited to live in a house of humans.
If you are considering getting a pet monkey, you must remember a few things. They are expensive, dangerous, live a long time, require a huge amount of your daily time, need a lot of space, and are not cuddly. Yes, some monkeys live out their lives without causing harm to a human and can be properly cared for as pets. Many handicapped individuals even rely on primates to do daily tasks. But a pet primate that has to stay in a cage and has little to no daily enrichment or activity, is lonely, and gets an unhealthy diet is a miserable pet. It's actually a kind of animal abuse for someone to keep a pet primate like that.
Primates, some of which can be referred to as monkeys, are highly intelligent creatures. Anything that is as smart as a human child and stronger than a grown man needs extraordinary care, or it should be left in the wild.
Anyone who keeps a pet monkey must be practical and prepared. Primates do not make good pets, and larger ones like chimpanzees should not be kept in captivity. Need proof? Just ask a former chimp owner.